By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — Dreams became reality when the shovels hit the dirt during the site preparation groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 1 of the St. Joseph’s church and school expansion on June 5. The initial phase will add an education building and a parish hall/gymnasium to be shared by both parish and school.
The education building will house six additional classrooms and an oversized multipurpose room for large meetings such as choir practice and youth ministry activities. The much-needed parish hall, with a seating capacity of 500 to 600, will allow for large gatherings for this rapidly growing parish. Presently, the school cafeteria is used for such events, but can only seat 150 to 250 people, which for a parish of 1,860 families is limiting. It will also function as a gymnasium for parish and school athletic events. With a large regulation basketball court, St. Joseph will be able to host athletics events, impacting the greater community.
Faith, Hope and Love: Vision 1997-98, the name of building and renovation campaign, began in November 1997. The last major building project was 40 years ago with the construction of the school.
“The enthusiasm of the people has been encouraging as more families are joining us on this journey of faith, hope and love,” said Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph.
The ongoing campaign has been successful so far with 50 percent of the parish pledging $2.2 million for the construction, which will cost $4 million. Sophie Sagrera, treasurer of the capital campaign, has set a goal for 100 percent participation, hoping that the campaign momentum will once again build with the site preparation.
“Our need is a blessing from God. If we were a stagnant church, we would not need to expand,” she said, adding that taking this journey is a way people can acknowledge God’s generosity to them.
Proceeding the groundbreaking ceremony, Sagrera joined several other key figures of the campaign, updating interested parishioners and friends during an open meeting. John Boudreaux, president of the Boudreaux Group, also addressed the group, giving some specifics about the construction, which included a blueprint of the master plan derived by the parish building and grounds committee and his firm. The site preparation to be completed by this fall will initiate Phase 1. It will provide new traffic loops for parish and school and close a driveway between the two buildings. The rest of the phase should be finished by the end of 2000, according to Boudreaux.
Joining the parish for this event was Bishop David B. Thompson, who was given the honor to be the first to break ground with the shovel.
“This day is a joyous occasion for you and for the larger community for building is a sign of life. With faith in God’s providence, you are making an investment for your children as you build for the future,” he said addressing the crowd. Making a connection with what God can create with nothing, he added with shovel in hand and a grin, “Here’s mud in your eye.”
Sister Christina Murphy, principal at St. Joseph’s, has been involved in the campaign and the planning phase of the project as member of the building and grounds committee. She has seen the growth of the school in 10 years go from 235 students to almost 360. Viewing the expansion as an exciting time for St. Joseph, Sister Murphy encourages everyone to take part in the campaign.
“When you are a part of the creating process, it is a much more gratifying experience than waiting until it is finished and then jumping on board,” she said.
Communication director for the parish and acting chairman for the Pastoral Council, Dan Wagner, sees the participation goal as an important one to try to achieve. “We would like willing participation, so that people can feel a sense of ownership,” he added.
The rapid growth of St. Joseph only mirrors the growth of the Midlands and the Charleston Diocese as a whole.
St. Joseph is setting the ground work for a church that will be able to effectively minister to its growing and diverse flock.